Archive for January, 2010

>Click here to read the first chapter of Debbie Fuller Thomas’s Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon, a book about family, trust, and healing.

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon Discussion Questions
1. How does Andie’s physical description of the Blue Moon Drive-in reflect the spiritual lives of Marty and Andie as the story begins?

2. Marty says the drive-in is ‘family friendly’? Do you find this ironic, and why or why not? What are the comparisons between the future of drive-in theaters and the traditional family unit?

3. Marty seems eager to ‘replace’ Ginger but Andie isn’t eager to ‘replace’ her parents with Marty. What is the difference? In what ways does Marty make Andie feel that she wants her to replace Ginger?

4. Why was it so important to Marty to open a bakery? What does it represent to her, and how does it compare to her father’s desire to be an artist? What do Coconut Dandies represent to Winnie, and how does Marty’s baking contribute to her need for constant grazing?

5. How would you rate Marty’s parenting skills with respect to Deja? Compare it to the relationship between her father and her brother. How do you think Deja will ultimately turn out, and what will she be doing after high school (assuming she graduates)?

6. Marty has a mini-breakdown and ends up many miles from home. Contrast the reasons she left with the reasons she went back. What was the outcome? Did anything change for Marty?

7. At one point, Andie says her ‘heart-shape is plugged.’ What specific instances help to loosen the debris inside of Andie in regard to both the family and to God? In what ways is Marty’s heart-shape plugged?

8. After several years, Marty is still mourning her broken marriage. At what point does she begin to feel the need for closure?

9. When Marty ‘dropped’ the cake at Julian’s feet at the farmer’s market, would you say it was more accident or more subconsciously intentional? Who or what did he represent to her at that moment?

10. In what ways does Andie gradually accept that she is really part of the family? On what points does she feel a kinship with Ginger?

11. When Marty finds Ginger’s hospital bracelet, she reflects that we are all switched at birth and that God wants to reclaim us. What do you think she means? What would have eventually happened to Andie if Marty hadn’t ‘claimed’ her?

>Making the Past Understandable

>By Author Tricia Goyer

As a writer of historical fiction, I like to consider myself a translator of sorts. It’s my job to take the events of the past and make them understandable to today’s reader. No … more than that … to make history come alive and make the past an enjoyable place to visit.

As a translator I must balance the core values and beliefs of a people in the past with the felt needs of today’s reader.

If you write historical fiction you too are a translator. The question is … how much will you compromise the past to connect today?

Compromise
The compromise doesn’t mean changing the facts, but rather it means making sure our writing style and delivery appeals to today’s reader.

Of course, we must also look at our “facts” and consider them from two different points of view.

For example, consider the Communists and Nazi regimes. The readers today, who have had even a basic history education, understand these two systems. Yet, how we see both is very different than someone who lived in countries influenced by both.

In my Spanish Civil War books I balanced the way communism was viewed by an unemployed American in 1936 with how readers look at it today. To a man in 1936, communism looked ideal. It gave a voice to common man and provided food and honor to men out of work. Still, I also created scenes that showed some of its many weaknesses—as known by today’s reader.

Resolution
Each author must come to his/her own resolution—”How much will I compromise to make my book interesting and exciting to today’s reader?” Will you change…

  • Word choices?
  • Patterns of speech?
  • Lengthy descriptions?
  • Pace?

    Personally, my resolution is to bring history to life. To make it as true-to-life as possible … but to write it in a way that will interest today’s reader. I flavor my dialogue in a way that will not slow the story or confuse the reader.  I write in dramatic scenes and weave description into the flow.

    Yet because I’m representing previous generations, I am also diligent in my research. I put in the extra time it takes to “get it right.”

      In our market it’s clear that the favored writing style of today’s reader mimics television/movies. Persia Woolley, author of How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction says:

      “Television has created a visually oriented society, used to seeing things happen in the comfort of their own living rooms. The result is that those who still read are always, at least subconsciously, looking for a physical description of a person and place so they can see it in their minds’ eyes. Reading a book is such an internal process, it helps to give your audience a means of visualizing your characters and locations.” p. 102

      That makes complete sense to me … as a writer and a reader. Because we live in a different society than 100 or even 50 years ago, our books should look different too.

      It’s compromise, yes. We write about history, far different than historical books are written. But writing words to connect with a visually oriented society is also a way to connect the past with today’s reader. Have at it, translator!

      Tricia Goyer
      www.triciagoyer.com

      Check out her WWII Liberator series

      >"Fictionography": Finding Ourselves Through Our Fiction

      >By Lisa McKay, author of My Hands Came Away Red

      There is one question I get asked more than any other by people who’ve read my first novel, my hands came away red – “how much of it is true, how much of this is your story?”

      In the beginning I tried to be very precise in my answer.

      “I did go on a short-term mission trip during high school,” I’d tell people, “and pretty much everything about Boot Camp was true to life, but I went to the Philippines, not Indonesia. And we didn’t get caught up in a massacre, thankfully. And the narrator, Cori, is braver and more robust than I think I would have been under those circumstances.”

      But I soon gave up on precision and owned the novel as fictionography.

      Fictionography is a word I came up with (though I may not be the first) to capture what the book was to me as I was writing it – a good deal of autobiography unfettered by fiction.

      When I decided at eighteen to write a book about a mission team gone horribly wrong, I knew some of what would happen to these characters. What I didn’t know was how they would react and cope when the world they thought they understood was rocked so violently. How do you begin to find hope again after something like that? And how has hope changed?

      I never dreamed that it would take me twelve years to begin to answer those questions, or that the story would be so profoundly influenced by my own life during that time – for the book wasn’t the only place I encountered these issues. After training as a forensic psychologist, my various jobs have included counseling murderers, debriefing police officers after they were unable to save babies trapped in burning cars, reviewing hundreds of case files on children’s deaths, conducting risk assessments of child sex offenders, and running workshops on traumatic stress for humanitarian workers on the front-lines of disaster and conflict all over the world. Among other things, my career so far has been a whirlwind tour of some of the worst experiences life has to offer.

      Many people say you should write what you know, but I felt driven to write Hands more by what I didn’t know than what I did, and the story itself became a fictional vehicle for me to search for some sort of peace with my very autobiographical struggles around understanding suffering and violence. Along the way, writing my way into this story when I couldn’t see the way out was sometimes exhilarating, sometimes terrifying, and always difficult. I did sometimes wonder whether my personal sanity wouldn’t have been better served by writing romance novels instead of a story set in the middle of a virtual civil war in Indonesia. But looking back now, I think that as I labored to write Hands while grappling with professional roles that mandated me to help those profoundly challenged by their own traumas, several life lessons were being ingrained.

      I learned some about sitting with tough questions in life, staring them down honestly, and respecting the fact that there are no easy answers that satisfy, and sometimes no answers at all that satisfy completely.

      I learned a lot about the temptation to let the magnitude of suffering and evil apparent in this world overwhelm, and ultimately paralyze.

      I learned a little about the responsibility we have to choose hope in the face of all that – even when it doesn’t seem to make any earthly sense.

      And I was wowed by the power of writing fiction to grant me entrée into different voices and perspectives and allow me to get down and dirty with tough questions about life – to voice my own frustrations, doubts, struggles, and hopes.

      I wish that I could say that with the completion of the novel came the completion of the questions. But alas, no. My life seems to be very much a work in progress. The questions continue. The learning continues. The writing continues – although sometimes slowly. Truth be told, it sometimes seems that the living of the “ography” is getting in the way of the writing the “fiction”. But when I’ve found myself this past year getting tied up in knots about the difficulties juggling a full time job, traveling around the world, getting married, and trying to write a new book I’ve had to pause and remind myself that in this season of my life the “ography” is really sort of the main point. And, God willing, that “ography” will lead to some more fiction a little further down this track.

      Lisa McKay is an Australian forensic psychologist. She is currently living in Los Angeles and working as the Director of Training and Education Services for the Headington Institute, which provides psychological and spiritual support services to humanitarian workers around the world. You can visit her website at: http://www.lisamckaywriting.com

      >The Violence of Story

      >

      In my favorite novels, it seems that the characters come to the moment of illumination only after being confronted with great violence.  When Jane Eyre finds her former home and master have suffered a fire in her absence, the agony of separation inspires her to the realization that she loves Mr. Rochester.  In The Lord of the Flies, it takes the death of a comrade for Ralph to understand that the boys on the island have lost their childhood innocence.  And it is not until author Annie Dillard wrestles with the life-altering plane accident of a small girl (in Holy the Firm) that she sees God’s goodness in a crazy world.


      It seems to be human nature to have thick heads that only extreme circumstances can penetrate.  In a state of comfort, we are sometimes too relaxed, too unmindful to learn what our lives actually depend on.  But if our child unexpectedly gets sick, our husband is laid off, or our friend is going through a messy divorce, suddenly our senses are awakened and sharpened in a way that lets us experience life a little clearer. 

      In the face of violence or tragedy, our daily concerns rearrange themselves according to an eternal reality.  When something goes suddenly wrong, the urgency of the situation mercifully clears away any petty anxieties that once occupied us.  And that is some small grace.  Coming home from a funeral last month of a friend I’d known from elementary school, I found myself suddenly careless about the work I needed to catch up on and the wedding planning I had been stressing over. Instead I wondered whether or not I spent enough time with the people I loved, and then hurried home so I would make it in time for family dinner. 

      I heard Shauna Niequist, author of Cold Tangerines, say once, “You pray for honest, gritty, and tender stories, and then you pray to live through them.” The price of epiphany is often violence, and any prayer beginning with, “God, change me…” is a dangerous one.  Anyone who has ever prayed to know our Father better knows.  But with the violence we are ushered into grace, just as there is grace in the story of the Light of the World who had to suffer death and darkness before mankind could see.

      >Exercising Your Reading Muscle!

      >By Stephanie Duncan, Marketing Assistant at Moody Publishers

      Welcome back to the new Moody Fiction Blog! Today we are continuing in the final day of our launch contest from Jan. 5-9th, and as our last day, we will be giving away 20 free copies of Latter-Day Cipher (fiction) and The Mormon Mirage (non-fiction) by Latayne C. Scott! Each of 10 winners today will receive a copy of each book. Read on for details…

      I once saw award-winning author Mary Gordon speak, and came away challenged by her statement, “Exercise your reading muscle!” While at this time of year, many are implementing new health and fitness programs as New Years resolutions, it may also be a good time to get your literary intake in shape. Here are a few ideas to kick off your reading routine this year!

      1) In Living By Fiction, Annie Dillard writes “the writer is interested in knowing the world in order to make honest sense of it.” Challenge yourself to pause and collect the details of God’s glorious world around you in a journal.

      2) Finish that book you picked up last spring but only got through the third chapter!

      3) Read Scripture with an eye for literary technique, looking for the Divine Author’s use of theme, foreshadowing, and character development. Start with biblical narratives such as Genesis, Esther, the gospels, and Jesus’s parables. Also check out A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards, a masterful storyteller who retells the drama of King David, Saul, and Absolom with devotional insight.

      4) Enroll in an elementary education course just so you can teach The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo to a room full of imaginative, impressionable second-graders. Yes, the book is just that good.

      5) Read-aloud to your kids. Try old classics like The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgsen Burnett, or The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. And if you really want to be brave this year, give all your characters voices.

      6) Spend a day in a library; come with no agenda.

      7) Balance your reading list by unearthing old classics and discovering new titles. Follow this advice from C.S. Lewis, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”

      8) Check out books on tape or CD from your library, or order them discounted online, to listen to on your commute to work or while you’re cleaning around the house.

      9) Use fiction to connect with others: join a book club, read through a novel with your spouse, make a book recommendation to friends. Fiction is not an escape from reality, rather, it teaches us how to live reality better by showing us the interconnectedness of the stories of humanity. As C.S. Lewis said, “We read to know we are not alone.”

      10) Try your hand at a piece of creative non-fiction.  Author Vivian Gornick says that to write one’s own story is “to lift from the raw material of life a tale that will shape experience, transform event, deliver wisdom.” You could start by writing your testimony in a creative narrative account, jotting down an anecdote from family life, or starting a journal.

      To enter to win a copy of Latter-Day Cipher (fiction) and The Mormon Mirage (non-fiction), all you have to do is leave your comment below (along with your email–important for us to contact you if you are a winner!) answering the following question or responding to this post, and you will be entered into the contest. Winners will be selected at random and will be notified the day after their comment is posted. 10 winners will each receive their own copy of both titles. Good luck!

      Today’s Question: What hopes, goals, or challenges do you have for yourself this year regarding reading and writing?

      When rebellious Utah socialite Kirsten Young is found murdered in Provo Canyon with strange markings carved into her flesh and a note written in 19th century code, questions arise about the old laws of the Mormon Church. Journalist Selonnah Zee is assigned the story—which quickly takes on a life of its own. Even before the first murder is solved several more victims appear, each one more mysterious than the last.

      Adding to a slew of other distractions, Selonnah’s cousin Roger has recently converted and is now a public spokesperson for the Mormon faith. But paradoxically, Roger’s wife, Eliza, is struggling to hold on to the Mormon beliefs of her childhood. If something is really from God, she wonders, why does it need to be constantly revised? And could the murderer be asking the same questions?

      In the first edition of The Mormon Mirage, Latayne C. Scott shared her remarkable journey out of Mormonism as she uncovered shocking inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and contradictions in the faith she had loved and lived. Thirty years later, Mormonism and Mormon scholarship have evolved with the times. In this third, revised and updated edition of her well-known book, Scott keeps pace with changes and advances in Mormonism, and reveals formidable new challenges to its claims and teachings. The Mormon Mirage provides fascinating, carefully documented insights into • DNA research’s withering implications for the Book of Mormon • the impact of new “revelations” on Latter-day Saint (LDS) race relations • new findings about Mormon history • increasing publicity about LDS splinter groups, particularly polygamous ones • recent disavowals of long-held doctrines by church leadership • the rise of Mormon apologetics on the Internet

      >Crossroads and Periscopes: How Stories Teach Us to Live

      >

      By Stephanie Duncan, Marketing Assistant at Moody Publishers
      Welcome back to the new Moody Fiction Blog! Today we are continuing in the fourth day of our launch contest from Jan. 5-9th, and will be giving away 10 free copies of Miss Match by Sara Mills! Read on for details…

      The Incarnation of Christ, as one of the core Christian beliefs, is composed of the Word given skin, of theology given a body, lungs, hands, and eyes.  John 1 speaks of the Incarnation beginning with creation, stating that “all things were made through Him” (John 1:3).  In this divine creative process, all things that were brought into existence began with the Living Word, and as humans made in the image of God, our words are  intended to function similarly.

      Our words are not intended to stay stagnant or shelved, but to grow into our very doing, to become incarnate in the tangible outworking of our lives, and this applies particularly to the arts.  A biblical view of creative writing unfolds out of an understanding of the Incarnation, which teaches that just as the Word became flesh in the Son of God, language is intended to become manifest in life.

      As writers, we are entrusted with the work of reminding a broken people of this wholeness, of picking up the pieces through story, metaphor and creative word, and so returning the minds of men to the Incarnation.

      Stories also help us to interpret our lives in light of the greater, eternal context.  Madeleine L’engle comments in Walking on Water, “Stories are able to help us to become more whole, to become Named.  And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos.”[1]  Stories are powerful in their ability to inspire connectedness between daily life and heavenly glory.  Words can be for us anchors and footholds, able to tie down the majesty of idea to our level of living.

      Michael Malone, a contemporary novelist, compares reading literature in one of his books to peering through a periscope: both enable us to “see around corners” and expand our vision.[2]  Stories give us the incredible gift of perspective: offering us a glimpse of eternal reality, showing us the connectedness of life, and assuring us that the glory we read of in Scripture and the daily cycle of our lives do, in fact, operate in the same sphere.

      Flannery O’Connor suggests this as well, “The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.”[3] Good writing connects the regular details of our lives with the glory of our souls and puts them on the same plane.

      The best stories are those that realize their sanctifying power in the word of truth of the Author of Life.  The glorious task given to the Christian writer, then, is to fashion words in the manner of the Incarnation: words that point men to wholeness, and language that teaches us how to live.

       
      To enter to win a copy of Miss Match, all you have to do is leave your comment below (along with your email–important for us to contact you if you are a winner!) answering the following question or responding to this post, and you will be entered into the contest.  Winners will be selected at random and will be notified the day after their comment is posted. Good luck!
       

      Today’s Question: In your experience, how has either writing or reading sharpened your eternal perspective? How have stories reminded you of God’s unfolding drama of redemption? 

      FBI agent Jack O’Connor receives a letter from Maggie, a woman he used to love, saying she’s in trouble in Berlin. The FBI refuses to get involved, so Jack asks Allie Fortune to help him investigate. Allie and Jack pose as a missionary couple who want to bring orphans back to the United States. 

      A child finds important documents that everyone in the city — Soviets and allies alike — want for themselves. Maggie refuses to tell Jack what the documents are, saying if things go wrong, they are better off not knowing. 

      Through the course of the search, Allie’s past is brought back to her, half a world away from home.


      Find Sara Mills at: 

      [1] L’engle, Madeleine.  Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.  Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1980.  Pg.  46.   
      [2] McCullough, Donald W. “What Does Literature Have to do With Ministry?” Theology, News and Notes.  December 1991.  Pg. 3.
      [3] O’Connor, Flannery.  “Novelist and Believer.”  The Christian Imagination: Essays on Literature and the Arts.  Ed. Leland, Ryken.  Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981.  Pg. 315.

      >Where Has All the Ink Gone?

      >

      By Stephanie Duncan, Marketing Assistant at Moody Publishers

      Welcome back to the new Moody Fiction Blog! Today we are continuing in the third day of our launch contest from Jan. 5-9th, and will be giving away 10 free copies of The Missionary by William Carmichael and David Lambert! Read on for details…

      Every morning, I become an anthropologist for about 30 minutes for my commute on the public “EL” train in Chicago.  There are few other social circumstances that offer me anything as interesting as watching complete strangers cram themselves in close quarters with other complete strangers in a box speeding along at 55 miles per hour.  It’s always entertaining to see the many ways with which people occupy themselves in this social context.  There was a time before I was engaged that I would always catch myself noticing the rocks on women’s hands as they hold the pole, and now I play another game: I like to see what people are reading.  And my recent favorite sighting is the Kindle, Amazon’s new digital reading device.

      Kindle is a lightweight, portable device that makes books available for reading on a handheld screen.  This product has wireless that enables users to purchase books which are delivered in less than 60 seconds and can store thousands of documents.  Kindle users praise this invention for the convenience of being able to put their library in their pocket and instant access to manuscripts.  Needless to say, when I saw my first Kindle on the EL, I was curious.

      But as I looked into this new technology, I began to feel conflicted.  What about the printed page? What about underlining your favorite part of your novel? What about the satisfaction of watching your bookmark migrate from one side of the binding to the other or hearing the hushed sound of a page being turned?
      When I purchased a magazine once at a writing conference, I asked the editor if her magazine was also available online, following the trend of many publishers in this web-savvy age.   The look on her face told me immediately I might as well have asked her if she wanted to go out of business.  “Oh no,” she said, “We believe in the sacrament of print.”
      Well.  She put her finger on it.  Call me an elitist, but I also value the sacrament of print.  There’s something enchanting about holding a book in my hands and knowing another world is hiding just under the cover. 
      But I’m not closing any doors.  Technology definitely has advantages in this age, and we are just seeing the beginning of it. So I would like to hear from you:
      How do you feel about electronic reading devices versus reading from the printed page? Do you think the reading format of a story also changes the dynamic of the story? 
      To enter to win a copy of The Missionary, all you have to do is leave your comment below (along with your email–important for us to contact you if you are a winner!) answering the question above or responding to this post, and you will be entered into the contest.  Winners will be selected at random and will be notified the day after their comment is posted. Good luck!

      David Eller is an American missionary in Venezuela, married to missionary nurse Christie. Together they rescue homeless children in Caracas. But for David, that isn’t enough. The supply of homeless children is endless because of massive poverty and the oppressive policies of the Venezuelan government, led by the Hugo Chavez– like Armando Guzman. 

      In a moment of anger, David publicly rails against the government, unaware that someone dangerous might be listening—a revolutionary looking for recruits. David falls into an unimaginable nightmare of espionage, ending in a desperate, life-or-death gamble to flee the country with his wife and son, with all the resources of a corrupt dictatorship at their heels. 

      Watch the Trailer…